The State Museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau does not recommend that children under the age of 14 are brought to see it. The best age for young people to see the exhibition is 17–19.
Teachers and helpers on school trips should be advised that two scenarios of behaviour are possible:
- excessive emotional reactions characterised by hysteria and sobbing, withdrawal, or aggression, or the opposite: denial of the information conveyed by the exhibition, demonstrative indifference, and even inappropriate quips, which are often made to avoid being accused of weakness or being teased or laughed at by other pupils;
- some pupils sometimes also expect to experience sensational emotions and feelings at the museum, and treat it as a kind of extreme tourist attraction – a type of horror museum.
Unfortunately it is quite common practice to treat this site of memory as one of a list of tourist attractions to be “seen” on a trip to Krakow, along with the salt mine in Wieliczka, and Zakopane. There are even groups that go to nearby amusement parks on their way to or from the museum.
Another frequent problem is lack of awareness of the historical context of Auschwitz or of the basic facts about the World War II period, which can make it difficult or even impossible to understand the history of this tragic place. The main exhibition at the museum does not provide a historical context, and offers no broader history of World War II or the Holocaust; neither is there space or time on the tour for a separate lecture on this subject. It is therefore recommended that young people be properly prepared in this respect before their visit to the Site of Memory.
It should be remembered that the site of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau camp is not only a museum, but also a vast cemetery, where the ashes of the victims still lie, and which is still visited by people wishing to honour and commemorate those victims, and to express their grief, sorrow and solidarity. This fact demands of visitors appropriate behaviour, above all appropriate dress, and refraining from noise, eating, drinking, and smoking on the museum premises.Visitors’ behaviour should be respectful of the feelings and intentions of other people visiting the Site of Memory.
The organisation of memorial ceremonies on the museum premises requires the consent of the museum directors in every case.